September 2016

7 Outcomes Of Play

written by
Clara Malm
Former CMO and contributor

Ball is life? Nope, play is life!

I feel like we hear it all the time. Sentences like “play is important!”, “play is essential for proper child development!”, “It’s more than just fun!” are frequently thrown out and about in social media, both online and offline. Yes yes, we know, play IS important. And even though most of us can imagine why play is so important for a young child, some of us might not know exactly what happens in a young, developing brain and body when play is activating it. What are the physical and mental effects of play? How does play develop a child?

Unsplash/Alexander Dummer

I recently bought a book called “The undeniable power of play” by Katie Chivarone, Susie Ortiz, and Alana Pace. In addition to giving out hundreds of bigger and smaller play tips, DIY recipes, and other fun and healthy activities for kids, they have summarised pretty well the actual outcomes of play. Let’s have a closer look.

Children that explore and playfully investigate through play will develop greater:

Theory of Mind

When kids play they often experiment with roles and characters. “You play the mum, and I’ll play the dog, ok?”. Theory of Mind is the ability to acquire mental states — beliefs, desires, impersonations, knowledge, convictions — to oneself and others. This type of play is crucial for a child to understand that other people have beliefs, desires, intentions, and perspectives that are different from one's own.


Play is essential in the development of creative skills in a youngster. Several studies have been made on the link between play and creativity. One research article about Pretend Play by Susan Ross, for instance, showed that children that engage in pretend play, increase divergent thinking and creativity later in life.


The development of language in young children happens in large parts through his or her exploration and social interactions in play. Research has shown that children that engage with other children in imaginary play have a higher word recognition and greater vocabulary skills.

Executive Functions

During pretend play, a child must shift attention and change back and forth between fiction and pretend characters, and reality. This type of mental stimuli has shown an improvement in children's working memory, the ability to focus, and their mental flexibility, several functions that are part of what scientists call “Executive functions”.

Cognitive Development

During social play, children will exercise and improve cognitive skills like teamwork, social decision-making, negotiation, and problem-solving.

Divergent Thinking and Problem-solving

Pretend play increases children’s ability to divergently think, thus also improve their problem-solving skills. Playing with toys allows young children to better understand the different properties of objects, such as texture, weight, and size. This will then teach them how these differences will affect how the objects will behave. As the children get older, they will use toys and tools for a specific purpose. They will set a goal, and use the object as a tool to achieve the goal.

Symbolic Thought

While playing, objects and surroundings can transform and become anything in the mind of the child. A tree can become a fortress, a dog can become a dragon, and a shoe can become a boat. This is symbolic thinking, and abilities like this require complex mental processes.

“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn” - O. Fred Donaldson

DXTR Tactile

Learn how to play

As play expert, O. Fred Donaldson’s famous quote goes: “Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play, children learn how to learn”. Play is the best start to life that you can give your child because it will help shape a healthy, social, smart, caring, and creative person. A person hopefully ready to take on the world.

Clara Malm

Clara used to work as our CMO and marketing manager.

We continue to be super happy about the time we had and wish Clara all the best on her continued adventures.


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